A federal convict accused of committing a murder nearly 20 years ago in Tempe will likely represent himself in court. Robert S. Ortloff, 42, now serving a 50-year prison sentence for a 1986 Texas bombing, said Tuesday in Maricopa County’s Madison Street Jail that he believes he can win an acquittal in the Tempe case if he just shows a jury "the big picture."
"This is going to be a long, long difficult trial," Ortloff said. "I'm in no rush. I'm doing 19 more years for the federal authorities." Ortloff was indicted May 14 on charges of first-degree murder, arson and burglary. He was extradited from a Texas prison and booked into the county jail Aug. 6.
His former business partner, Kathleen Smith, 20, was struck over the head and left inside her burning condominium in October 1984. She was the daughter of former Tempe Councilwoman Carol Smith. Ortloff declined court-appointed counsel at his initial court appearance.
"I don't trust them," Ortloff said, referring to lawyers. "There's too many conflicts of interest and politics involved with them." Over the years, Ortloff has filed 17 lawsuits and appeals in federal court, all having to do with his bombing conviction and the Tempe case. Both cases are "interwoven," he said, but declined to elaborate.
Ortloff's arraignment is Thursday, when a judge will enter a plea of innocent on his behalf.